Member Since: 11th Jun 2019
11th Jun 2019
Actually, I don't think Kantar Public, who compiled this report for HMRC, came to any clear conclusion on the role of agents outside professional bodies, even if their tone and approach suggests they wanted to.
From the executive summary:
"Of greater concern are practising agents that are not members of any professional body. Agents working in
the private or public sector are assumed to be supervised by their employer; agents in practice that are not
members of a professional body may be doing exemplary work. But it is recognised that agents do make
errors, and it is currently very difficult for professional bodies to identify the most common tax errors that are being made and the types of agents making them. The professional bodies are keen to work with HMRC to
This paragraph literally makes no sense. Each sentence is a non-sequitor. It is definitively not the role of any professional body to "identify the most common tax errors" of non-member agents. I would assume, I am afraid, that this is an attempt to blur the lines between professional bodies and regulators. That spells danger for the profession.
In any industry, if a professional body qualifies, regulates and accredits its members, there is a systemic problem. No matter its original, presumably noble intentions, the system that persists the professional body is self-serving and thus the rules it proceeds by will gradually veer in favour of the club and its members, and bear less and less relation to the actual job of the accountant. As soon as you're in the club, you are invested in, incentivised to and indeed potentially required to continue to promote the supremacy of the club. It is not a surprise that anyone in the club wants everyone to join the club!
As an example, the ACCA rulebook is a whopping 548 pages. Including (taken at random) this beauty:
115.3 A professional accountant shall behave with courtesy and consideration towards all with whom the professional accountant comes into contact in a professional capacity
It might be reasonable, to a normally well-adjusted human being, to be discourteous in response to discourteousness. But es ist verboten! This seems a most hand-wringing form of corporate political correctness. Why anyone would opt for such regulation is beyond me, but each to their own and I understand that many may see the genuine benefit to them of joining a professional body. But is hugely expensive for the small practice in time and money to comply with all this legislation, even if they wanted to. To require it would be beyond "extraordinarily unfair". It would be a small-practice killer.
Besides, we shouldn't forget that a client can self-assess with zero regulation and zero accounting knowledge or skills. Unless HMRC can identify that unregulated professionals are disproportionately the cause of problems in the tax system, vs those who are members of a professional body, this is simply an unsurprising finding that the professional bodies want more members and more power.